Rhetoric versus Reality: The Best and Worst of Aid Agency Practices

78 Pages Posted: 25 May 2012

See all articles by William Easterly

William Easterly

New York University - Department of Economics

Claudia R. Williamson

Mississippi State University

Date Written: May, 14 2012


Foreign aid critics, supporters, recipients and donors have produced eloquent rhetoric on the need for better aid practices – has this translated into reality? This paper attempts to monitor the best and worst of aid practices among bilateral, multilateral, and UN agencies. We create aid practice measures based on aid transparency, specialization, selectivity, ineffective aid channels and overhead costs. We rate donor agencies from best to worst on aid practices. We find that the UK does well among bilateral agencies, the US is below average, and Scandinavian donors do surprisingly poorly. The biggest difference is between the UN agencies, who mostly rank in the bottom half of donors, and everyone else. Average performance of all agencies on transparency, fragmentation, and selectivity is still very poor. The paper also assesses trends in best practices over time – we find modest improvement in transparency and more in moving away from ineffective channels. However, we find no evidence of improvements (and partial evidence of worsening) in specialization, fragmentation, and selectivity, despite escalating rhetoric to the contrary.

Keywords: Foreign Aid, Best Practices, Transparency, Bureaucracy, Incentives

Suggested Citation

Easterly, William and Williamson, Claudia R., Rhetoric versus Reality: The Best and Worst of Aid Agency Practices (May, 14 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2058330 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2058330

William Easterly (Contact Author)

New York University - Department of Economics ( email )

269 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10003
United States

Claudia R. Williamson

Mississippi State University ( email )

Box 9580
312K McCool Hall
Mississippi State, MS 39762
United States
7242558627 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.claudiawilliamson.com

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